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Govt has given up on reviving economy: PC

Rahul Gandhi said the budget had no central idea and no concrete steps to create jobs
Chidambaram in New Delhi on Saturday.

Sanjay K. Jha   |   New Delhi   |   Published 01.02.20, 10:22 PM

The Congress on Saturday said the government was in denial about the gravity of the economic crisis and appeared to believe the economy would revive on its own, without any concrete steps being taken.

Former finance minister P. Chidambaram said: “The government has given up on reviving the economy or accelerating the growth rate or promoting private investment or increasing efficiency or creating jobs or winning a greater share of world trade. It is in complete denial that the economy faces a grave macro-economic challenge and the growth rate has declined in six successive quarters.”

Chidambaram, credited with presenting dream budgets in difficult times, was asked how many marks he would give this year’s budget on a scale of 10. He responded: “Ten has two digits, one and a zero; you can pick either.”

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the budget had no central idea and no concrete steps to create jobs.

Arguing that there is nothing in the budget to revive growth, Chidambaram said: “The claim of 6 to 6.5 per cent growth next year is astonishing and even irresponsible. There were multiple themes, segments and programmes, leaving the listener dazed and confused. It was a laundry list of old programmes. If the ongoing programmes have failed the people, how can throwing more (or in some cases less) money into the ongoing programmes change anything? The BJP has been identified with debatable positions like self-reliance, protectionism, control and aggressive taxation. The budget affirms those positions.”

Asked about the taxpayer charter being added to the statute, the former finance minister said: “Why was the charter necessary? Last six years, they gave extraordinary powers to the lowest officers and they criminalised every law. Now they are trying to decriminalise. But the message has gone out that every department with power to investigate is a tool of oppression and harassment.”

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had earlier highlighted how the atmosphere of fear was hurting the economy.

On the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) stake sale, Chidambaram said: “It is highly debatable. To assume that every public sector unit should go through disinvestment is wrong. LIC is strong and has competed with big private sector companies. We will debate this issue in party forums and express our view on the floor of Parliament.”

Chidambaram said: “The Indian economy is demand-constrained and investment-starved. The finance minister has not acknowledged these two challenges, and that is a pity. Consequently, she has proposed no measures or solutions to those two challenges. If the twin challenges remain, the economy will not turn around and there will be no relief to the millions of poor and the middle class.”

He said: “Food subsidy has been reduced, fertiliser subsidy has been reduced and petroleum subsidy shows a marginal increase because of anticipated increase in oil prices…. The government does not believe in reforms and certainly not in structural reforms.'


Left irked

The CPM said the budget revealed the government was clueless about addressing the economic crisis.

The CPI called the budget a “shameless declaration that the government is abdicating all its responsibilities and working towards large-scale privatisation….”

Binoy Viswam, leader of the CPI in Parliament, said: “Given the severe crisis in consumption, especially in the rural areas, the lack of any redress of the MGNREGA scheme is worrying.”

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